Monday, July 28, 2014

HILVERSUM, Netherlands: Astrid's Birthplace

After we spent those couple of hours in Lage Vuursche (last post) back on May 31, we drove the 10 km north into Hilversum, the city where Astrid was born and raised.  (And yes, it's the same city where the victims of MH17 are being identified...but we didn't know any of that back then.)

Hilversum is a city of ca. 87K inhabitants...with it's city center, the water tower from 1893 (top-right),
the new city hall, where Astrid's parents married on July 20,1949 (top-left), etc., etc.
Oh, and Meddens (right-center) was where Astrid had her first full-time window-dressing job.

But that's not what we went to see.
We went to see the places important to Astrid's growing-up years.

First up was the Mennonite Church where her family of 4 were all members.
Neighbors outside told Astrid the place is now a meditation/yoga center.

Primary school was from age 6-11, within walking distance from home.

Secondary school was from age 12-16, a bike ride away.
The stories I have heard about what happened at those side windows!!!

But it was Astrid's house...where she was born and raised...that made my day.
We parked the car across the street and walked through the side driveway to the back of the house...
where we met the Bosnian lady who now lives there with her family.

We stood and chatted out back, behind the house, with Astrid catching up on the neighborhood
since her mom's move to a senior center around 1999.

 Much to our surprise, the lady invited us in to see the house!
We walked in from the back, through the kitchen...saw the basement, 
the toilet room (without wash basin or shower)...

...the living room, dining room, foyer, sliding door, wood floors,
much of which was exactly as Astrid's dad had planned and built in her youth.
What was NOT there when she grew up was the central heating with wall radiators!

Upstairs was exactly how Astrid remembered it.
Her bedroom was on the left, brother Sander's on the right, facing the back yard,
with their parent's room at the the front of the house.
The upstairs bathroom has a sink and shower...but no toilet, which is very typical old Dutch.

I'm still pinching myself about seeing this with Astrid, from 60 years ago!
The memories, the stories.  Her whole family life was here in this place...and I got to see it.

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

It so happens that Hilversum has a museum and since we're trying to put our annual museum card to good use, we stopped in to see it.

It's in the old city hall where Astrid's parents actually got married July 20, 1949.
An "Oh My God" exhibition was going on at the time...

...asking the question, What do YOU believe?"

Of course, there were the other "normal" museum pieces, 
including information on Willem Dudok, the architect of many city buildings, like the new city hall.

 A lower floor had some bits-n-bobs to be seen....

But it was the renovated interior of the museum that enthralled me with it's columns down to the lower floor. Whether looking down or up, I felt I was in a holy, meditative space. It's what I will always remember most about this particular museum.

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Next up, nearby Laren and its museum, all in the same day!


  1. Oh my goodness how incredible is that you get to not only see the house where Astrid grew up, but really see where her bedroom is. What nice people to invite you inside their house :). Is this the first time you've been here?

    1. I really am still pinching myself, Maria, because I lived a year in Virginia where I was born and have no clue what my house looked like, outside OR inside! No photos! And yes, the Bosnian lady must have known how important it was to us both. Astrid saw the things her dad had made and improved upon over the years. Not much had changed.

      Astrid had driven me by the house in 2008 but I had scant remembrance of it. I now have finally seen it "up close and personal."

  2. Going to Hilversum was special. The house were I was born. The neighbourhood were I grew up. Being invited inside was even more than I ever would have thought off. So much hospitality, and yes so much the same and so much improved for the best. We had one furnace with coal in the living-room. In winter we had the most beautiful ice-flowers on the windows upstairs. We had lots of children in the neighbourhood and we always played outside.
    The secondary school was fun, the last class was the most fun. I opened the window to let the boys in, who came late...... and the teacher never found out 'who had done it'.....grin.
    The museum was so different than I remembered, modern but nice.
    I was not surprised that the church did not survive... most of the people were very old and there were almost no young couples with children....
    Thank you for keeping this memory alive. It was a great day!!

    1. I am SOOOOO glad you filled in some of the special details, MLMA, from the many menories you've shared with me. THANK YOU. I really do think it's incredible that I have seen the actual place where you were born and raised!

  3. So very wonderful for you both to visit Astrid’s former home. It holds many memories for her that you can now visualize. I took my husband to our Paris flat but we did not go inside, and same for the house in the Paris suburbs where my parents lived until my dad past away. Looking at the rooms, the kitchen and all shows more of the lives lived there. I can understand how very happy you both were. The church now museum is also quite something – such a variety of objects. What a great visit to this little town.

    1. At our age, Vagabonde, how many of us get to go back and see the INSIDE of the house where we first lived! In Astrid's case, she was even born there, with the help of a midwife.

      It was the old city hall that is now the museum...and put to good use, I must say!

  4. Ginnie,

    Going home! Now there’s a topic that is bound to draw many comments from your readers. I suspect we’ve all done it and probably to more than one place we called home.

    I grew up on West 86th Street in NYC. My room looked south from the 16th floor, and my best buddy had the same windows on the 15th floor, and I never ceased to enjoy coaxing him to stick his head out the window so I could bomb it with snow or water, but we had an intercom wired between our bedrooms, and he never tried to develop a reverse missile technology.

    I saw him last week to join with 50 other guests to celebrate his mother’s 100th birthday. She still maintains office hours in her sex-theropy psychiatric practice. Her most famous pupil was Dr. Ruth, and her doctoral supervisor was Margaret Mead. Celebrating her 100th was like going home and as close as I can come to seeing my own mother.

    Another time I went home was in my 20s when I flawlessly followed roads to the summer camp in Maine that I hadn’t seen since the summer I was nine. With only the name of the village that it was near, I went straight to the site though the camp was gone, every building of it, and the area turned to woodland beside a lake. The amazing thing was finding it at all.

    Similarly, I drove directly to a house my parents rented in Milford, CT, in 1950. I was 23 at the time and I hadn’t seen the house or been near it since I was4. I am always amazed at the depth of these early memories - how remarkable the human brain! I remember the day I decided to stop sucking one of my thumbs.

    Great shots, great trip and another water tower!

    1. You have so many books in your head, Ted--so many stories to tell--I wonder if you can ever keep up with them! Make sure you write them down...and not just of your photo ops! I love it for you.

    2. I actually wrote a chunk of it over the years in the middle of my English class. I used to bring a computer w/projector into the room and the kids were coached to do what I called “free writinng,” letting their thoughts go and talking them out until they found their topic. I’d usually give some sort of prompt, and while they wrote, I would write into the computer which would project my thoughts onto the screen. Kids saw how I did it, and when they got stuck it often gave them cues to get back on target. I compiled some of my writings once into a story about growing up in 27 W 86 St. Of course, the point of the class is that we all have stories to tell.

    3. I love it, Ted. I wish all kids had as good a teacher as you!

  5. What a special trip and to be able to see Astrid's house....and another interesting much to do and so little time! :)

  6. How great to have a guided tour of Astrid's childhood home!

    1. I thought so, too, Bill. The thing is, Astrid knew exactly where everything was. :)

  7. Oh how special!!! And how wonderful the lady was so willing to share!! Love this post and I know you two loved every second of this experience!!

    1. I really am still pinching myself, Robin. Astrid was lucky enough to live in the same house, and then her parents, for so long. That never happened in my family. I have no clue what my house looked like in Virginia when I was born! Only lived there for a year....

  8. How very special! I love seeing where Astrid grew up, especially her house, built by her dad, wow. I am very happy for you to share this with her, such an important thing. Now if I did it with Don, I'd have to visit about 7 towns. :)

    And you know I love that museum space! So serene.

    1. Yes, Ruth. Exactly. I don't think I've ever seen photos of the house I lived in (Virginia--don't even know the name of the city/town!) that first year of my life. We moved to Pullman, MI, and I DO remember that place!